If you've been following any coverage of the elite racing circuit early in this OCR season, you've likely noticed a certain pair of bright neon green- black- and red shoes flooding the start line on those racer's feet. Those stylish kicks are indeed the fast trending VJ Sport XTRM, developed with help of perhaps today's top OCR athlete Jon Albon, who brought the brand into the spotlight the last few years of world championships wearing their earlier I-Rock2 model. With all the buzz surrounding their recruited top tier Pro Team and collection of podium appearances, we'll likely see these on many more racers feet than just the elites very soon.
1. FIT/FEEL- One of the most important feetures (haha see what I did there?) I look for in a new pair of shoes is the comfort-ability to wear them straight out of the box and go right out for a run or race. I know, usually hard to find that, but as a long time Inov-8 fan, that's always been a huge factor thats been key. These shoes were close to race ready when fresh, but did need a little breaking in. After a few runs (30+ min each), they softened up to be at that stage. The fit was true to my size 9, and the Fitlock strap holding laces tighter around the mid-foot was something I liked, as I prefer a more snug feel. Overall, these felt super light despite their solid construction, another major aspect I need in my racing shoes. Also, the midsole rock plate definitely protected the arches on the more rocky and root-y trails, something OCR shoes should just not be without. GRADE = A
2. FUNCTION- The hashtag the VJ Shoes brand has made famous is really pretty accurate in my opinion, as I tested #thebestgripontheplanet on a variety of terrain over the last month- including snow, slush, streams, mud, sand, and dirt. Anything short of sprinting on Teflon gave superior traction, perhaps due to both the rubber material of the lugs and also the arrangement pattern, as they performed great for up or downhills as well as any curving turns. The lugs are a softer rubber, so it remains to be seen how durable they will be after the occasional pavement crossings, but the added Kevlar heel cup should probably hold up well to racing wear and tear, and stray bullets?! The one thing they could have improved on might have been a better drainage system, as it took an effort to stomp out extra water before they emptied out. GRADE = A
3. FASHION- The layout of each sewn together piece and layer of material is a sleek and flashy design, which will appeal to the Millenials buying these up. As for the color scheme, not far off from a Christmas light show, its not for the bland or boring type (but if it is, there's always the option to go find some thick mud to cover them with?). I like the look, and even though I'm known by the nickname "Mudman", I'll still hose these dirty bad boys off after my races to get that fresh glow for the next run. GRADE = A
OVERALL GRADE = A
If interested in picking up a pair of these for your training and race season, we've got a discount code you can use for $20 off each pair. Send me a message for the hookup!